Back in the middle of January, I read the stunning historical-fiction The Phantom Tree by new-to-me author Nicola Cornick, which was published in 2016. This is an author I have seen read and loved on several blogs, so it was good to finally get round to this book: a freebie download long neglected at the back of my Kindle!
And it was well worth it too, as The Phantom Tree swept me away in a gripping tale of the loves, losses and adventures of two young women, which slips between present day and 1557. In the present day, we meet Alison Banestre as she stumbles across a delicate old portrait, supposedly of Anne Boleyn, in a Wiltshire art gallery. However Alison knows better… The woman is in fact her cousin Mary Seymour: the unwanted orphan of Katherine Parr who was sent away to Wolf Hall in 1557 and promptly disappeared from all the historical records.
You see Alison is a woman out of time and this painting is more than just a beautiful object from her past – It holds the key to unlocking the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, through which Alison hopes to discover the whereabouts of her stolen son and find a way to return back to him. It all hangs on a childish promise – Alison will help Mary escape, if she will help Alison find her son – made between two grudging allies, thrust together in an old rambling hall of poor distant relatives and foundlings.
I didn’t find Alison easily likeable, especially with her cold reception of poor little Mary in 1557, however she is strong, intelligent and driven if rather prickly, but of course I couldn’t help sympathising with her awful situation and I could see how she’d become the way she is. Meanwhile I instantly loved Mary, a small, quiet and awkward child, who is treated respectfully due to her royal blood but never truly loved by any relatives she foisted on. Mary also has a special gift she is desperate to keep secret in fear of being rejected or worse: accused of madness or witchcraft.
Regardless of my narrator preference though, I was equally seized by the present and past threads of this book, and that can be very hard to do – In fact one of the few authors who can do that for me is usually only Susanna Kearsley. Also the way the two threads came and weaved together is part of the real beauty of this book, as well as how Cornick worked in elements of history, coming-of-age, deceit, drama, and a touch of the magical to this wonderfully complex and well written tale.
So all in all, I thought The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick, was an emotional and exciting historical-fiction, with a dash of the supernatural for good measure, too! When I was reading this I forgot the world, which was just what I needed! I look forward to reading more by this author. Great read ⭐⭐⭐
Now I’d love to hear your thoughts: Have you read this? Or any of Nicola Cornick’s other books?